Who Validates Your Case for Support?
Each day, more than 1 million 501(c)(3) organizations begin the day with the hope of generating more income from an array of donor scenarios. Many individuals receive a pitch in the mail, and others are solicited via social media. Many organizations apply for grants from foundations. Still others create special events or personally solicit believing their causes are the most important and worthy of financial support.
Ask yourself one question. Who says you are so worthy? Was your case for support generated internally based upon what you think donors want, or was it validated through external forces? The answer to this question is critical to the success of your short- and long-term program.
The key is validation — both internally and externally.
As you look internally for validation, discuss priorities with your chief financial officer and the finance team. See where funds are needed and can make a difference for many. Discuss plans with key operational directors, and gather statistical information.
The quality of programs and services plus quantity as to number of recipients are important. Look at history of performance to determine state of progress. Determine what priorities your organization does well and is known for in the community. As you find priorities worthy of support, ask yourself if this something prospects would support. Just because you need something doesn't mean everyone will be excited when asked to contribute. Make sure your needs are sound and validated throughout all levels of the organization.
While many organizations may have internal support for their cases, the missing link is found in the external validation piece. For example, with respect to social services, you must seek information from an array of external forces such as the United Way, community foundations, government entities and major funders. These funders certainly include key community individuals, major corporations, significant local foundations, and local associations and organizations.
Test your case with key stakeholders. Try to find the "movers and shakers" of the community to see if they support your case now and in the future. If you desire future funding, building relationships, effective communication, broad-based education and exact forecasting are musts for success.
In this day and age, just because you have obtained funding support for a cause in the past doesn't mean you will get funding in the future. The uncertainty of government direction, economic changes and more demanding donors are just a few of the variables you need to contend with. The demand for accountability has never been greater. Your case has to be powerful, meaningful and relevant. You must have a degree of community validation plus internal support. Your board needs to not only ask for funds, but be totally engaged in the priority validation process. If it does not own your case, no one will.
Sadly, in my consulting role I do a number of development audits. I am still amazed at the lack of connectivity between internal administrations, boards of directors and staffs responsible for generating financial support. Today's donors need to feel trust that the organization is spending their dollars wisely, organizations are making a community impact and volunteers understand their ambassador role.
Your existence alone doesn't make you special or worthy. Take a deep breath, stop asking for a day and look in the mirror. Who validates your case for support?
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at email@example.com or 317-224-1029.